Brussels Syria conference: Syrians don’t need handouts, they need to rebuild their lives

Oxfam and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) today called on governments and other donors to provide more funding to help Syrians recover from eight years of conflict and rebuild their lives. The international agencies also called on the Government of Syria to allow humanitarian organizations access to all those in need of help throughout the country.

The calls come in a new report published ahead of a meeting of international governments in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the future of aid to Syria and the region. This week also marks eight years since the start of the conflict in Syria.

While the fighting in large parts of Syria has subsided, 11.7 million people are still dependent on humanitarian aid – over sixty percent of whom are in government-controlled areas. Homes and schools have been destroyed, neighbourhoods lack clean running water and sanitation, and people lack the means of making a living to feed their families.

Over 80 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, more than one in three schools are damaged or destroyed and over two million children are out of school, according to the UN.

Despite the scale of needs, governments and other donors are reluctant to fund work which they perceive as contributing to the reconstruction of Syria, especially in government-controlled areas – leaving millions of Syrians dependent on aid for some time to come.

Moutaz Adham, Oxfam Syria Country Director, said: “The money is needed to help the millions of Syrians that have borne the brunt of eight years of bitter and brutal conflict to recover – to help them feed their families, put a roof over their heads, send their children to school. They don’t want hand-outs but a helping hand to rebuild their lives and become self-reliant again.”

At the same time, the Government of Syria’s restrictions on access and on direct engagement with communities as well as its opaque and complex approvals system makes it extremely difficult for humanitarian agencies to provide help to people in need across the country.

Mark Ohanian, DRC’s Syria Country Director, said: “The needs and expectations of the Syrian people should be at the forefront of our response. Donors should fund a comprehensive humanitarian response across all parts of Syria, including early recovery and resilience programming, to enable Syrians to restart their lives in dignity.”

Adham said, “Just because control of an area has shifted, does not mean people are no longer in need. To help the Syrian people recover from this devastating crisis, funding is needed for essential services like water, education and healthcare, and humanitarian agencies must have access to deliver them. Without this support, Syrians will continue to suffer for many more years to come.”

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Note to Editors
  • Read the full report “Aid in Limbo: Why Syrians deserve support to rebuild their lives”
  • Case studies of families affected by the war in Syria are available here. Some names have been changed. All the children’s names have been changed.
  • Figures in this release are based on data from the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), Syria, 2019.
  • Oxfam is an international confederation of 19 organizations working together with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries. In all we do, Oxfam works with partner organizations and alongside vulnerable women and men to end the injustices that cause poverty.
  • Oxfam’s operations inside Syria focus on the provision of clean water to conflict affected people through the rehabilitation of water infrastructure, providing water by truck and repairing of water sources. We are currently working in 9 of Syria’s 14 governorates. We work with communities to prevent the spread of diseases by promoting good hygiene practices in schools and by training local community volunteers. We distribute food where needed and support farmers to grow food and make a living through training and cash-for-help (unconditional aid provided by the organization for people who need it the most).
  • The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is a humanitarian, non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 1956 that works in more than 30 countries throughout the world. DRC fulfils its mandate by providing direct assistance to conflict-affected populations – refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities in the conflict areas of the world.
  • DRC is one of the largest INGO operating in Syria from Damascus, having begun operations in 2008 and scaled-up response to the crisis in 2012, and is a leading actor in the provision of emergency Shelter/WASH, Education, Protection, Livelihoods and Mine Risk Education.
  • Oxfam and DRC are two of the largest international NGOs operating with registration from Damascus.


Contact Information:

Paula Baker
Media Relations
Oxfam Canada
(613) 240-3047

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